There are ominous signs that Stephen Bannon and Donald Trump have unleashed rogue elements within the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who are already violating the human rights of Latinos, Muslims and others.
Authoritarian regimes require their own paramilitary forces, and the White House plan to expand the Border Patrol and ICE gives Bannon and Trump a growing armed wing that is independent of local police, that can conduct raids anywhere in the United States, and that showed its enthusiasm for Trump by endorsing him well before before the election.
Under Bannon/Trump, the Border Patrol has already asked to reduce its standards for new recruits, loosening requirements that include a lie detector test, an entrance exam and background check. The proposal is dangerous, as James Tomsheck, a former high-ranking Border Patrol official has pointed out. Tomsheck, who should be getting far more news coverage, served for 8 years as head of the Border Patrol’s internal investigations.
In the 40 years that I spent practicing law enforcement in three different agencies, it was my experience that the Border Patrol had an identity and a culture that was very different from the rest of U.S. law enforcement. They were an agency that had not always been held accountable.
He recalled the problems the last time the Border Patrol expanded greatly, under President George W. Bush.
We came to clearly understand that many of those persons who sought out positions with Border Patrol and Field Operations were doing so solely for the purpose of criminal opportunities and profit.
The Border Patrol rank-and-file showed its zeal for Trump all the way back in March 2016, when its union endorsed him for president, pointing out that “we are breaking with our past practice and giving our first-ever endorsement in a presidential primary.”
Another dangerous sign is that Bannon/Trump are reportedly proposing to appoint a rabid anti-immigrant figure to the Border Patrol’s number 3 post. Julie Kirchner is the former executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a notorious organization that the watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center has described as a “hate group” with nativist ties.
Bannon/Trump want to increase the Border Patrol from 19,500 to 26,400, and add 10,000 more ICE officers, tripling the present number. The figures may not sound large, but ICE especially can raid anywhere, and its first highly publicized acts over the past month have struck fear into immigrants all across America. Some human rights violations have gotten publicity, including the ICE effort to deport a distinguished French scholar of the Holocaust and its harassment of a 70-year-old Australian woman who writes children’s books.
Mem Fox, the Australian author, said:
I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness.
But for every publicized case, how many ordinary Latinos and Muslims have been harassed, arrested and deported by uniformed officials and are too scared to report it?
And just exactly who will investigate as the reports of Border Patrol and ICE abuses continue to stream in?